PARIS - France’s ban on full face veils, a first in Europe, went into force on Monday, making anyone wearing the Muslim niqab or burqa in public liable to a fine of 150 euros ($216) or lessons in French citizenship.
The ban has been criticized in France and elsewhere, but mainstream Muslim groups — which had a six-month grace period after the law was passed to explain it to their supporters — opted not to protest at its entry into force.
“We’ve already had our debate about the law and now our position is clear: we respect French law 100 percent,” said a spokesman for the French Council of the Muslim Faith.
France’s five-million-strong Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest, but fewer than 2,000 women are believed actually to wear a full face veil. Many still oppose the law, however, on the grounds of the precedent it sets.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right government, which pushed the law through parliament in October, rolled out a public relations campaign with posters, pamphlets and a web site to explain the ban and how it will be enforced.